Growing up during a public health crisis: a qualitative study of Born in Bradford early adolescents during Covid-19

Publication authors

Bridget Lockyer, Charlotte Endacott, Josie Dickerson & Laura Sheard



Whilst children and young people have not often been at forefront of the immediate Covid-19 pandemic health response there has been concern about the indirect consequences of Covid-19 on children’s physical and mental health and what the effect of the pandemic will be throughout their lifetimes. Early adolescence is a time of transition and reorientation. This study considers the impact of the first UK Covid-19 lockdown on early adolescents.


The study topic was identified through a consultation process which aimed to provide appropriate evidence to local decision makers in Bradford, UK and plan for future interventions. A group of children and their parents from the longitudinal Born in Bradford (BiB) cohort study were randomly selected and then purposively sampled by ethnicity, age, sex and deprivation. The BiB cohort is made up of 13,776 children and their families and were recruited at Bradford Royal Infirmary between 2007 and 2011. 41 interviews (with 20 families: 20 parents and 21 children) were carried out between August and September 2020. Interview data was analysed using reflexive thematic analysis.


The transitional age of the children interviewed had an important influence on their experience Covid-19 and the first UK lockdown. Their age combined with lockdown and school closures meant that they missed out on key learning and social opportunities at a crucial time in their lives. Covid-19 and lockdown also disrupted their daily mental wellbeing and led to increased anxiety, lethargy and low moods, during a period of personal change and social transition.


For children at the start of their adolescence undergoing change and formation, the experiences and feelings Covid-19 has set in motion will likely have an impact on their mental and cognitive functioning as they develop further. It is important to acknowledge these early adolescent experiences and continue to monitor and provide targeted support to this group of young people.